- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

Singapore's barriers
Singapore may be one of the freest economies in the world, but the United States wants the Southeast Asian nation to open its markets even more.
Frank Lavin, the U.S. ambassador to Singapore, is complaining about restrictions on foreign professional firms, such as lawyers, architects, engineers and bankers.
"Limiting these vital white-collar firms reduces Singapore's appeal as a business locale and makes [it] less inviting as a regional hub," Mr. Lavin said to the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore last week.
Mr. Lavin said Washington wants Singapore to remove the restrictions as part of a bilateral free-trade agreement under negotiation.
"Frankly, we have an ambitious goal and we have to do some work if we are to reach it," he said.
"Of the major international cities, Singapore has the dubious distinction of having the least competitive retail banking sector. Singapore citizens and businesses deserve world-class products and services."
Despite U.S. complaints, Singapore ranks repeatedly near the top of an annual survey of world economic freedom by the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal. This year, it ranks No. 2, behind only Hong Kong.
Singapore "is a secure environment for foreign investment," says the Index of Economic Freedom.

Hannibal Club U.N.
Tunisia's former ambassador in Washington is determined to duplicate the success of the Hannibal Club he founded in Washington four years ago.
Noureddine Mejdoub, now Tunisia's ambassador to the United Nations, has opened the New York Hannibal Club to serve as a think tank on a global level. His Washington club, carried on by his successor, deals with U.S.-Tunisia issues.
Mr. Mejdoub hopes his New York club will be a "bridge between representatives of the U.N. community and prominent Americans" through the sponsorship of seminars and lectures.
"Since the dramatic events of September 11, it became clear that we have entered a new phase of contemporary history and that the United States and United Nations must work hand in hand from this point forward," he told Embassy Row.
Named after the ancient Carthagin general, Hannibal Barca, the Washington club attracted support from Supreme Court justices, members of Congress and diplomats. The New York club has been endorsed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and South Korea's Han Seung-Soo, president of the U.N. General Assembly.

Diplomatic traffic
Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who meets President Bush. He holds a noon news conference at the Danish Embassy, 3200 Whitehaven St. NW. On Wednesday, he will speak at George Washington University, where he will receive an honorary degree.
Ioannis Magriotis, deputy foreign minister of Greece, who will represent the Greek government at a White House ceremony where President Bush will mark Greek Independence Day. Mr. Magriotis also will meet State Department officials and leaders of the Greek-American community.
John Garang of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army and Francis Mading Deng, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative on internally displaced persons. They will address invited guests at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Sergei Ruabih, general director of Russia's emergency response ministry and retired Israeli Maj. Gen. Yoram Yair, chairman of Supergum Ltd., Israel's leading manufacturer of plastic and rubber-based protective clothing. They are among the speakers at a homeland defense seminar at the Washington Convention Center.
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who meets President Bush.
Atanzar Arifov, general secretary of the Erk Party of Uzbekistan, and Abdusalom Ergashev of the Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan. They participate in a forum on Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan sponsored by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

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